Five priorities for new QPR manager Mark Hughes
The former Fulham boss, Mark Hughes, is unveiled as Rangers’ replacement for Neil Warnock, but he must overcome a number of problems if he is to keep the Rs in the Premier League
Less than 48 hours after Neil Warnock was shown the door at Loftus Road, there is a new man at the QPR helm – former Fulham boss and Chelsea midfielder Mark Hughes.
Rangers chairman Tony Fernandes and his boardroom colleagues wasted little time in ushering in the 48-year-old Welshman, who signed a two-and-a-half-year deal on Tuesday afternoon.
Hughes’s CV is impressive; the Welshman also managed Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and his national side, but he inherits a QPR team which sits 17th in the Premier League table and without a win in eight games.
There are plenty of issues to address if Hughes is to prevent Rangers from slipping into an all-out relegation battle – and here are five of his most pressing tasks:
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1: Find a replacement for Alejandro Faurlin A central midfielder was perhaps not a priority in the January transfer window for Warnock, but it most certainly will be for Hughes, after Faurlin suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament against MK Dons in the FA Cup on Saturday which ruled him out for the rest of the season. Rangers were already light in that department, with Joey Barton and Shaun Derry the only other options, and they will now need a new face. Hughes may well turn to the loan market to plug the gap.
2: Get QPR winning at Loftus Road again
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An obvious one, but the equation is simple: one win, four draws and five defeats from QPR’s first 10 home games of the season is relegation form, and most of the reason the Rs are in their current awkward predicament. ‘Sparky’ must get Rangers to rediscover their spark in front of their own fans. That means more passionate, full-throttle displays akin to the heroic win over Chelsea, and no repeat of the limp and lifeless performances against the likes of West Brom and Sunderland.
Passing must be quicker, movement off the ball better, oh, and playing two strikers up front from time to time wouldn’t hurt either...
3: Play Shaun Wright-Phillips on the wing More than a few eyebrows were raised when, in September, Warnock revealed Wright-Phillips would occupy the ‘free’ role in the Rangers midfield. It would prove either a tactical masterstroke or an almighty clanger - and sadly for Warnock, it proved to be the latter. Wright-Phillips is clearly not comfortable operating through the middle, so stick him back out on the wing – either wing – and encourage him to tear at defences the way he did against Newcastle on his debut. Do that, and watch his confidence come flooding back.
4: Plug QPR’s leaky defence
The goals have not so much been leaking in as flooding in during the last couple of months, mostly down to a series of costly individual errors at key times in big games. Such errors can be ironed out on the training ground, but it is well-documented that Rangers need a new central defensive partner for Anton Ferdinand. It may be Blackburn’s Christopher Samba, it may be Tottenham’s Sebastien Bassong, or even Alex at Chelsea. Whoever it is, they need to be better than Fitz Hall and, ideally, Danny Gabbidon. Luke Young is a capable right-back, but with Armand Traore away at the Africa Cup of Nations a left-back is a priority. Wayne Bridge has been touted, as has Nedum Onuoha – and of course, Hughes is bound to have a few names of his own in mind...
5: Sort out the future of Adel Taarabt
A dreary sage that has dragged on for too long. ‘Shape up or ship out,’ must be Hughes’ message to the moody Moroccan midfielder. Warnock showed the patience of a saint with Taarabt, it is unlikely the no-nonsense Hughes will do the same. Taarabt’s antics too often overshadow the team and, whatever is said publically, act as a distraction. One way or another, Hughes must sort out his future by the end of the month.
So there are five head-scratchers for the new manager. There are, of course, more (trim QPR’s bloated playing squad and sign a striker, to name but two). The fiercely independent and ever ambitious Hughes is charged by Fernandes with keeping QPR in the Premier League, and judging by his comments so far, it seems to be a task he is relishing.